Rotarians want your bikes for Pedals for Progress
NEWTOWN – Used bicycles may be a dime a dozen here, but in the developing nations of the world, they’re gold.
In the poor and impoverished villages that dot Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe, one used bike can literally lift a family out of poverty, said Dave Sshweidenback, the founder and CEO of Pedals for Progress.
Every year, his U.S.-based organization ships thousands of donated bikes overseas to partner organizations, which recondition the bikes and then resell them at a low price to poor working adults.
By providing mobility for the movement of goods and services, Schweidenback said bicycles can literally turn a village’s economy around and point it in the direction of prosperity.
“It’s all about go,” he said. “You have to go to work. You have to go to school. You have to move your goods and services if you want a successful economy. Right now, in many of these villages, all they have is walking. If you can give them the mobility they need they can become successful in their own right,” reasons Schweidenback.
“We’re trying to create a more vibrant, economic place. We’re trying to grow the economy,” said Schweidenback.
But before Pedals for Progress can carry out its mission overseas, it needs help from home in the form of donations of used bikes.
For the past decade, the Newtown Rotary has held a local collection drive, bringing in between 1,500 and 2,000 bicycles over the years.
And this Saturday, they’ll do it again with its 10th annual Pedals for Progress drive from 9 a.m. to noon in the parking lot across from Olde Saint Andrew Church on Sycamore Street.
Used bikes, as well as sewing machines, can be dropped off anytime during the drive. Organizers are asking for a $10 donation per bike and sewing machine to help defray the cost of shipping.
Bicycles should be relatively rust free. Other than that, bikes will be accepted no matter what the condition, even if it has flat tires or frayed wiring. Three wheel tricycles will not be accepted.
Bike drive coordinator Dr. Jerry Agasar said he appreciates the community’s support over the past 10 years and encourages them to come out again and to spread the word to their neighbors.
“Take a look in your garage and basement and see if you have a bike you’d like to donate,” he said.
“We are very fortunate in this country to have what we have, especially living in this area,” said Agasar. “But not everyone has the education, the economics to help themselves. This is a great way to help others in this world. We’re all connected,” he said. “It’s about service above self. That’s what Rotary is all about. It’s a winwin.”
“And why put something in a land fill when there’s someone who really needs it,” says Schweidenback, adding that Newtown’s generosity over the years has made a huge and lasting im- pact in these villages.
This year the donations will be shipped to Rivas, Nicaragua where the economy is literally on the move, thanks in no small part to Pedals for Progress and the mobility it has brought to the marketplace there.
Schweidenback said his organization has placed more than 35 percent of the adult population of Rivas on wheels, created a self-supporting local bicycle import, assembly and repair business and has noticeably boosted local economic activity.
“The economy of Rivas is a booming economy, maybe one of the only ones in the country. That town is a vibrant marketplace with almost full employment, which is unheard of in all the other towns. And the difference is, is that everyone has a bike to get to work,” said Schweidenback.
Since it started its local campaign in Rivas, Pedals has shipped about 20,000 bikes and close to 300 sewing machines to the Nicaraguan village.
Their efforts to bring the war-torn city back to life are captured in a new documentary now under development. A portion of it can be viewed at TheBicycleCity.com.
But Rivas is not the only community benefiting from Pedals.
“This spring, I shipped a container to every continent,” said Schweidenback. “I shipped two to Central America, one to Africa, one to Eastern Europe and one to Vietnam and Asia,” he said.
When those containers arrive, Schweidenback said, “It’s like Christmas, New Year’s and your birthday all lumped together. There’s one town that every time the bikes arrived they have a parade.”
“For me, my greatest satisfaction is when I shut the doors on a container on Saturday and I know they are going to open in six weeks someplace else, someplace where they are needed and will make a tremendous difference,” he said.
A trip into town to do the family shopping